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Flirting, personality disorder, what's "normal"?


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I am a regular user on CB but need to be able to talk about my relationship anonymously. I think that's ok, right? If not, kick my ass out and I will go cry in the corner. And eat worms.

My partner and I have had massive ups and downs in the near year we've been together. We are both batshit crazy in a variety of ways. When things are good, they are phenomenally good. Bad = some of the worst ever (NOT abusive). I have a mood disorder plus PTSD plus personality disorder NOS <--- and that's the shit that's causing me problems. I don't know what "normal" is. I've had problems with obsessive jealousy in the past (based on a long series of everybody I was ever partnered with cheating on me- EVERY ONE over decades and a marriage) and very low distress tolerance a lot of the time.

So anyway, this question is about flirting. I think that most people think some flirting is ok, right? I don't think I do it, but I've probably been extra animated when talking to someone interesting/new/attractive. But I try to be conscious of it, because I know how crappy it feels to have a partner flirt.

My partner hasn't done it a lot in front of me, but when he does, it is fucking over the top. I am much older than him and sometimes very worried about our age difference. So when he gets all animated, excitable, flirty, silly with a young woman twenty years younger than me, it stings. Tonight he was pretty cold towards me, but when we met up with friends, he flirted outrageously with a young woman, and she flirted back (to the extent that he was playing with her "cute tiny hands" and at one point she tickled his belly where his shirt pulled up- like NEXT TO HIS CROTCH) (the thing about her hands hurt a lot because he was saying the exact same thing to me last night, and I have pretty gnarly big hands- this chick had tiny dainty hands long fingernails with which she tickled his belly- ewww just fucking ewww). Her boyfriend didn't seem too happy about it and made a point to talk to me about stuff (in a totally non-flirty way) because I was probably clearly uncomfortable.

In the past I put it down to my being hyper-sensitive, but tonight I actually texted him directly about it (I had to walk a ways to a bathroom). He said he wasn't doing anything and I told him yes, he just wasn't being aware (or just not owning up to it). But I also didn't want a giant fight, so dropped it. If he had been interacting with everyone in the group the same way, I would have just figured he was being goofy. But he didn't. He was doing stuff that guys do when they are flirting with girls, and only with her. And she totally reciprocated. If they were both single, they were acting like they would hook up.

It was fucking gross and disheartening and I don't know if this is something people do and I should just suck it up or if I am right and it was disrespectful towards me and fucking lame as shit.

I also want to bring it up again and let him know specifically that the thing about her hands was really hurtful because that detracted from my being his special woman that he says sweet things to. I mean, it was so fucking specific, it almost felt like he was making a point to make me feel bad. Or he is a fucking idiot that just doesn't think about what he's saying. I don't go around telling other men how cute their body parts are. And he knows I am self conscious about being pretty burly (not tall, but muscular, fat and definitely not dainty- and that chick was like half my size and half my age- he claims he doesn't like that type, but that's who he flirts with and dated in the past).

I am also wondering if I should contact one of our friends that was there to see what their perspective about it was.

Fuck. Sorry this is so long. This comes after months of trouble and a fucking horrible couple of weeks, during which I broke up with him twice over other stuff.

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When you are in a committed relationship, touching is inappropriate period. Especially if that touching & communication is making your significant other uncomfortable. Right there, whether he was trying to flirt or not, should have been a red flag and should have stopped as soon as he knew you were uncomfortable.

 

I honestly think you handled it pretty well. Being straight forward with him about it is a good idea, and letting him know that the interaction between him & this woman (whether he realized it or not) was not appropriate. If it is truly bothering you and you feel like this needs to be addressed, I would bring it up to him again. But I would recommend to stay calm & direct like you have been.

 

Having a personality disorder or not, you don't deserve to be treated that way. Just because you may handle & process relationships differently it doesn't give him free range to be a dick on purpose. Just sayin'.

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Another thing: adding the friend in the mix may or may not be a good idea. On one hand, it may provide you with some insight other than your own. On the other, it might cause extra problems adding a third party to your relationship. That might be something you want to asses with your therapist (assuming you have one), who knows you & some of the other things that are going on right now.

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Thanks. It feels good to know that I'm not just being crazy.

I just wrote him this but haven't sent it (I'm in bed, he's downstairs):

"I am very tired and want to sleep. But I didn't want to have sex because I'm still feeling really gross about how you acted with that girl tonight. I don't care if you admit it, but you absolutely were flirting with her, a lot. This is not just me being jealous, this is me stating what happened. If you two were single, it looked like you were both working on hooking up with each other. Jesus, she tickled your bare belly! How would you feel if a guy I just met did that to me?

But the part that really hurt and I can't shake was how you made such a big deal out of how tiny and cute her hands were. Do you remember saying the same thing to me last night? Which at the time felt like something sweet and special for me. Then you said the same thing to her. The. Exact. Same. Thing. Only it's true about her.

You know I am self conscious about being kind of fat and burly and we both know I have big gnarly hands. To watch you flirt with a girl half my size and half my age, after you had been just ignoring me when I had been trying to hug you or hold your hand... Can you see how that would make me feel? Especially after the way things have been for so long?

I'm not looking for problems. There are just so many all around, I don't have to. Considering how paranoid you were about me cheating on you, I think you can understand why this feels bad. I really think if I had been flirting with someone like you were, you would be really upset. "

Should I send it? Talking in person always devolves into a fight and gets nowhere. Texting isn't much better. He is so defensive, he will likely just get angry that I am "looking for problems" etc.

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Flirting is great, when it's a smile over the top of a wine glass, or a sidelong look, or an enthusiastic conversation.  None of those things are over the top and I've always thought that flirting was a harmless way of putting roses in your cheeks and feeling attractive and desirable.

 

However, I agree that the touching and the hands thing was out of line.  I'm not sure why he wanted you to feel badly, but he certainly succeeded.

 

The way to handle it is to wait until you two are alone, calm and sober.  Explain to him how these actions made you feel.  Don't accuse him of doing it on purpose---just emphasize that it made you feel terrible and sad that he would make a fuss over her hands when he had just told you how nice your hands were.  Don't be accusatory.

 

Then, notice how he responds.  If he gets defensive, or says you are imagining it, he knows he was wrong and doesn't want to admit it.  If that's the case, you have to think about whether he has any respect for your feelings at all.

 

If he apologizes and acknowledges that he was wrong, put it behind you and don't bring it up again.

 

olga

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Another thing: adding the friend in the mix may or may not be a good idea. On one hand, it may provide you with some insight other than your own. On the other, it might cause extra problems adding a third party to your relationship. That might be something you want to asses with your therapist (assuming you have one), who knows you & some of the other things that are going on right now.

My tdoc retired and I have been waiting for my new one to get back from maternity leave. I probably will skip asking the friend.

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I don't believe in doing these things by phone.  Talk in person.  If he gets defensive, they you know that HE knows he was wrong.  Try to stay calm and point out how his actions made you feel, but don't be accusatory.

 

olga

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I don't believe in doing these things by phone. Talk in person. If he gets defensive, they you know that HE knows he was wrong. Try to stay calm and point out how his actions made you feel, but don't be accusatory.

olga

I prefer talking in person, but he gets very defensive and upset even when there is no blame being laid on anyone. Also he gets confused and having the words written down can make it easier to get the message across. Ugh. Why can't everything be wonderful all the time?!

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Olga gave great advice, and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

 

If you talk to him and say you did *this* and it made me feel *this*, there is no accusing anybody of anything. Instead it is telling him that his direct action (to which he can not deny) made you feel a certain way. And there is no blame to you or him.

 

I have to do that with my DH with certain issues. When he does something that upsets me, I have to sit him down and tell him that something he specifically said or did made me feel a certain way.

 

Some things to stay away from when trying to directly communicate is the I thought you meant/said/did, or someone told me, or even the my interpretation was. The best kind of communication in that kind of issue is direct & straight forward, dealing with the actions & reactions at hand. And if he gets defensive when you tell him a action he did, then that says something on its own.

Edited by the girl
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He just keeps insisting he wasn't flirting and did nothing wrong. And hasn't said he is sorry I feel badly, even if he isn't willing to say he did anything deliberate.

I really hate being in relationships. I should have kept my vow to stay single.

Thanks for your input.

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When you say to him he was flirting, that is not a direct action. Telling him he was flirting is technically a interpretation of his actions, not an actual action. His direct action was touching a different woman. He can not deny that. Touching her to be flirtatious, he has a right to deny completely.

 

With some people, as soon as you tell them they were doing something they don't believe they were actually doing, they are going to get defensive and shut down. And when that happense they are not able to listen & understand what you are trying to say. That is a complete natural human reaction. But what you are trying to say is what he did (the touching) made you feel horrible. End of discussion. To get to the point of discussing what you think is appropriate interaction with other women, you have to let him know that the interaction he did have made you feel uncomfortable.

 

As for being in a relationship at all, that is your call. Relationships are hard work for the majority of people. Communicating & sharing a life with an entirely different individual is not a cake walk, no matter who you or your partner is or how much you love that person.

 

And I say all that with the best of intentions for you.

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I would definitely listen to olga, she obviously knows her shit and has been around the block a few times, same here. I am a male guilty as charged. And what olga says is dead on about most guys, if we are guilty we will NOT admit it and say your over exaggerating or misreading the event. If we truly care about our girlfriend/wife, we will man up to it and be honest and admit in our manly way of course, we "may have" gone over the edge and then apologize. Accept that as an admittance you were correct! :)

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that sounds really inappropriate.  If my husband had been doing that with another woman (which I can't even imagine he would) I would have exploded.  That is really disrespectful on his part.  You should def talk to him about it.

 

And personally, I wouldn't bring this other friend in bc regardless of other people's perspectives, it hurt you.  THAT is what matters.

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I am a believer in every relationship having terms and conditions. I am in a monogamous BDSM relationship where we invite people into our bed. But that begins as a private set of conversations between just us, if we cannot peacefully agree, we don't make contact with anyone else. I am happy to have another woman be with us both, but my partner respects the things that make me feel jealous or disrespected. Our boundaries differ from total monogamy, but we too had to figure our through moments like this what works for us. I have no doubts about my partners fidelity to me. It works because we have spent a lot of time figuring out how to communicate and separate what we feel from assumptions about each others actions. We also personally feel that those moments we feel jealous are signs we feel neglected, the flirtation brings resentments and pain to the fore.

My advice is:

1. This is your husband, the one on your team of two. His actions were hurtful, but by insisting he did this to hurt you, you weaken the chance to talk this out. By always assuming the worst about someone who considers they try to do right by you most of ths time, you put him on the defensive.

Unless this guy is an abusive unfathful jerk, give him credit as a decent guy who fucked up until you know otherwise.

2. If this really needs discussion, do it in person, calmly and pick a good time. I have BPD so I am not very good at this myself. Our worst fights have been late night text fights. It doesn't help.

3. Stick to your stuff. You don't know his intention or his reasoning. Your point is still valid:

'when that girl and you were physically flirting by touch today, I felt humiliated and hurt. When you do that it reminds me what it is like to be chested on, I find those feelings hard. Please don't do that.'

4. What is ok in your marriage? Your husband will meet attractive people and have chances to cheat. People will hit on him. As they will you. So maybe pick a time and figure out:

What does friendly chat look like?

What is unacceptable flirting?

If someone hits on him, would you feel better if he disclosed that or hid it?

If this situation happens again, what can you do to communicate to him that you are not ok with it, what can he do to end that situation?

What does he do to make you feel secur, how is he already working on trust? (praise him! Men are open to doing better when they feel trusted and acknowledged!)

Don't hold him to a higher standard than you hold uourself to, you will both make mistakes. If he is a good man, then focus on the actions, not attack his character. I think it is that your terms need renegotiating.

Edited by Titania
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Thanks, you all.

I know a lot of this is my own internal stuff that I always struggle with. But some of it I am still having trouble letting go of. In particular, earlier that evening he had been dismissive of me, pulled his hand away when I tried to hold it, moved away as I tried to hug him and the like (when I asked him what was going on, he did say we were fine and he didn't realize he was doing it), so I was already feeling off balance before the girl showed up. And the hand thing. It's just killing me.

If I had been feeling good and the flirtation wasn't so specific (how cute and tiny her hands are), I would have been able to blow it off more easily as just something dumb. But I still feel as if there is a knife in my heart, which sounds dramatic, but it feels that bad.

It's all tied up with my own confidence issues and fear that he doesn't care about me enough to just say he's sorry his actions made me feel so badly, even though he wasn't intentionally doing something to hurt me. Which is all wrapped up in our general problems with communication, instability, etc. and my feeling that we can never make this work. Like, the way he acted the other night seems like a huge signifier that he is not invested in keeping us together, and that his feelings have changed for the negative.

The fact that I don't feel as if I can address this with him directly, or explain verbally how and why I feel this way, or have a general talk about relationship parameters, seems like another huge signifier that we won't be able to work together. No matter how I have tried bringing stuff up (using I statements, not blaming), his response is almost always defensive, angry and shut down. We have had so many problems, and I have tried talking about them so much, he is (probably justifiably) burnt out and just thinks I am looking for problems. I'm not, but I've been drowning in so much negative thinking and not feeling as if I can express it, that I can't just settle down and let anything go at this point.

When we first met, it wasn't like this. We talked all the time and were able to have direct communication about any subject. It's part of why I am so unsettled- so much has changed for the worse, and I don't know how to fix it.

With this particular incident, I feel like it indicates so much about how he feels about me and our relationship, I am having trouble just sitting with the discomfort and letting it go. If he had apologized, I would feel so much better, because at least I would feel understood. And truly, when he is unstable and paranoid, he has been so fearful that I will (or am) cheating on him, that its kind of unbelievable that he can't seem to see my side of this.

I feel as if letting this go without getting an apology will leave me feeling so uneasy that I will fall back into obsessive jealousy. Which is horrible.

--- well. weird. He just came over and snuggled with me very sweetly and told me I look tiny today (I am wearing tighter clothes than normal) and that I look really pretty. Which is superficial stuff, which I sometimes want, but maybe his way of helping me feel better/oddly sort of apologize. Hmmm.

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So. Considering everything and, thank you Titania for reminding me of this, knowing that he is a good man that sometimes does stupid shit, I am going to leave well enough alone. I did clearly state exactly what behavior had bothered me, so he knows. He isn't stupid, and I know he does care about me, so if I am going to be making assumptions, I should be assuming that he has listened and is trying to make things better, even if he isn't willing to come right out and state an apology.

When some time has passed, and I have given us both a break from being steeped in negativity for awhile, I will address this more directly. Thank you all for helping me work through this. I am really looking forward to being in therapy again.

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I think that having him agree on rules re: flirting is the most constructive option. It sounds like he is trying to reconnect and make amends. Ideally, yes, he ought to man up and apologize and I do think that when he is hurtful next time, it is worth putting your foot down.I think the trick with assumptions is not to assume and best or the worst, just notice the story that happens in your head when you feel upset and realize that it may have some truth to it, or it may not. Maybe he is being disrespectful through deliberate carelessness. I don't recommend blind naivete, I wrote the post in a rush. But I do recommend that at some in a point, putting aside the inner monologue and listening to what my partner says helps me resolve things more thoroughly.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Men aren't as dumb and unaware as they sometimes like to make themselves out to be regarding how their actions impact others emotionally.  Not ripping on dudes here since i'm one myself but this is true.  If you feel it is inappropriate it is inappropriate.  If it makes you feel like crap he should not be doing it.  As I said I really don't think he could be so unaware as to not realize there was a problem with this.  That being said people mess up sometimes.  Let him know when his behavior bothers you,  if he cares about you he will do anything and everything it takes to try and make you feel good about yourself.  

 

He could have been frustrated or dealing with his own issues such that he behaved badly in a certain instance without this indicating a problem with your relationship in general.  It would only be if something was an ongoing problem and he shows no desire to try and treat you better that would indicate he doesn't care about or respect you at all.

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